ARTICLES / General / Ten Tips
For Ensuring Medication Safety /
By Seymour Ehrenpreis and Eli D.
People over the age of 65 represent
14% of the US population but consume more than one-third
of prescription medications. The average senior citizen
uses more than five different medications each day. This
does not count nonprescription, over-the-counter drugs.
As many as 90% of seniors also use herbal remedies and
vitamins. While there is risk associated with each type
of medication - including side effects, allergic
reactions or interactions with food, alcohol or other
drugs - the risk is magnified in seniors as they are
typically more sensitive to these effects.
Well known practitioners and educators in clinical
pharmacology and internal medicines, maintain that it is
imperative that caregivers educate themselves about the
proper use of medications:
From avoiding the risk of interactions, to understanding
and following instructions for storage and dosing. The
following suggestions may help to ensure safe and
effective use of medications: Be familiar with the
dosage instructions - including whether a drug should be
taken with food, with milk or other fluids or on an
empty stomach. Not following the dosage instructions can
result in a medication being less effective or causing
complications. It is also important to note that in most
medicines recommended dosages are determined using
trials with a younger population. In many instances,
seniors may require a different dosage.
Familiarize yourself with circumstances under which the
medicine should not be taken - including a history of
allergic reactions, existing conditions, etc. This is
particularly true for the elderly who generally have a
number of medical conditions which younger adults do not
Understand the storage instructions and follow them.
Because of moisture and heat, it is sometimes best not
to store medicines in the bathroom.
Be aware that there may be warnings to avoid heat, cold
or sun when taking a medication. Some medications may
cause great sensitivity to sunlight resulting in severe
sunburn or skin eruptions which can be dangerous. In
addition, it may be necessary to avoid excessive heat or
cold when taking certain prescription medications. In
such cases, saunas, whirlpools and even exercise in the
heat of the day should be greatly limited or avoided
completely. It should be noted that seniors are
particularly vulnerable to extremes of heat and cold.